The independent news organization of Duke University

The People's Strongest Power

Hype is a curious thing.

You can't hold it in your hand, can't see it or taste it. You'd probably be hard-pressed to define just exactly what it is, or describe to anyone where the simple truth stops and where hype begins.

But you know it when you see it, and you know that it might be the world's most powerful force.

It can, for example, paint a picture of a University and a town torn apart by racism, elitism and a thousand other ugly words.

And whether or not the original picture is accurate soon ceases to matter because the hype machine is rolling along. And the more times something is said-on television, in newspapers and magazines, in conversations over dinner-the more certain everyone becomes that it is true. After all, they heard it somewhere.

Generalizations are applied; bystanders are found guilty by association, and when the dust settles, an entire University's got a whole lot of 'splaining to do.

In this issue, Emily Rotberg takes a long look at the University's decision to end Tailgate-a decision motivated in part by all the bad press generated first by Tailgate itself, and later by the lacrosse scandal (and of course, the accompanying hype).

Iza Wojciechowska examines President Richard Brodhead's five committees-Duke's attempt to fix the problems that made the nation (and Rolling Stone) label the campus a hedonistic haven for boozing, hooking-up misogynists.

But hype doesn't always have to cause so much harm. At Duke, it can make or break a program. Jim Wulforst and Duke Dining are causing a stir with promises of celebrity chefs putting on shows on East Campus. The co-chairs of Duke's new Global Health Institute know that creating a buzz on campus is essential to their goal of making Duke a leader in the fight against the world's healthcare problems. And nationally respected curator Trevor Schoonmaker will give the Nasher some world-class cred.

There it is. Hype giveth (importance) and hype taketh away (reputation), sometimes at the same time. Just ask Mike Nifong.

So don't believe the hype. Or believe it. But you'd better respect its power.


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